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How Maryland Smith Enhances the Business Master’s Degree Via STEM

Mar 22, 2019

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Excerpted from U.S. News & World Report’s "Best Business Schools 2020" guidebook:

A rapidly growing number of schools are adding science- and tech-focused courses and programs for MBA and other graduate business students.

A formal STEM designation for college degree programs was launched during the Obama administration as a way to enhance America's leadership in fields like computer programming, the biological sciences and engineering. The designation was initially designed to attract international students by allowing those who qualify to live and work in the U.S. for additional time after graduation. But MBA programs that carry the STEM designation are finding that it has attracted applicants from within the U.S., too.

B-schools are responding to two different but complementary demands: Employers are looking for graduates who are comfortable using sophisticated software to parse data and then deploy the results toward improving business practices. And many students are looking for training that will help them balance soft skills like marketing, management and communications with technical know-how.

"There's definitely a skill gap right now in the economy," says Wendy W. Moe, associate dean of master's programs at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. "You have people with good business and leadership skills, and then you have people with the technology skills. They speak different languages." STEM graduates are attractive to employers because they can "help to fill that gap," she says.

Students who want to pursue STEM-focused degrees can sometimes choose between tacking them onto existing MBA programs or pursuing a specialized master's degree. The latter tend to be more focused on technical coursework than the traditional management-related topics, and they can often be completed in as little as a year.

Maryland Smith offers a number of STEM specialty master's degrees in topics such as quantitative finance and marketing analytics.

As with many more traditional B-school programs, STEM business options tend to have a heavy focus on experiential learning and helping students sharpen their tech skills by solving real-world problems with actual companies. Ramya Mure, 25, who graduated from Maryland's Smith school with a master's in information systems in December, gained valuable experience in data analysis while completing a class project for Airbnb. She and a group of other students mined data to determine which of the vacation rental company's properties would be the most popular based on the amenities they offered. Among their discoveries: Apartments that let renters bring pets were among the most highly booked places.

In addition to gaining experience from such hands-on case studies during her classes, Mure nabbed a paid position in the B-school admissions office, where she analyzed data on applicants and made suggestions about how staff could improve their decisions about whom to admit. She was also hired as a research fellow for the Center for Health Information & Decision Systems on campus. She spent a year there using informatics to match patients with telehealth services in a way that would benefit them while also reducing the cost of care for providers.

Mure, who had previously earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science in her home country of India, parlayed her work experiences at Maryland into a full-time sales job at Cisco in Raleigh, North Carolina. All in all, the blend of STEM and business in the master's program helped her balance out her expertise, she says.

"I love technology, but this degree taught me the organizational strategy and management side of business, too," she says. "That was what I needed to be relevant in an organization." 

Read the original article, How STEM Courses Can Enhance Your MBA, from U.S. News & World Report.

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.